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Towers, The

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Towers, The

Publication date 1957
Digitizing sponsor N/A
Simon Rodilla and the building of the Watts Towers in south-central Los Angeles.


Simon Rodilla, born in Italy and long-time inhabitant of Watts, had it in his mind to do something big. He became a "builder of defiant towers", gathering up discarded materials over the years and reassembling them slowly into structures looming high above his neighbors' homes.

Ken Smith comments: This documentary has "pretentious UCLA filmmaker" stamped all over it, from the pompous narration to the artsy camera angles to the annoying flute/piano/viola score. "The last place on Earth to search for the extraordinary." The story of Simon Rodia, tilesetter. "With the debris of a machine-ridden civilization he gave color and texture and vitality to the Towers as they arose out of his inner necessity." lots of CUs of Simon's gnarled hands; cements busted ceramic plates and mugs and tiles all over the metal framework of his 100+ foot towers; typical folk art junk: bottles, teapots; "he had an urgent need for expression"
"Dis-a was all my own idea" "All man's slow, tormented, enduring steps toward some light undefined -- may be here." "I had it in my mind to do something big and I did."
[This film is about the Watts Towers in south central Los Angeles, California]
Photographs of ancestors
Man filing
Piles of bottles and tiles
Man climbing tower structures
Suburban street with towers rising above the fences and rooftops
Close-up of man's face, shot from beneath
Close-up shots of the glass and broken tiles used to construct the towers



Reviewer: ModernismNow - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 12, 2009
Subject: A man at work
Loved this film. The peculiar soundtrack takes us in to this monumental example of raw, unfettered creativity (for-creativity's-sake.) It's inspiring to see a man whose need it is to create a single structure with his bare hands for no other reason than to have something to work on and make his mark. Educational and entertaining.
Reviewer: Max Grody - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 15, 2006
Subject: I thought Watts was common knowledge...
Never got to see them because, like any LA resident, you tend to think you'll see it all...and never see any of it.

A great mini-mentary about the towers. Funny how every thinks the 50's were a time of cultural stagnation in America, when they were actually very lively. Sure he started this in the 20's, but it was finished and celebrated in the 50's. Cool part of Americana.
Reviewer: nostalgiguy - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 3, 2005
Subject: The Towers
This is an excellent film to watch. I had no idea there was such a thing as the "Watts Towers." If all the facts are true in this film, then it is really quite amazing. But that aside, this film is just a pleasure to view for the sake of the colourful visuals and the "annoying" soundtrack, which I feel adds to the overall surreal effect. Do a search on the Watts Towers. Interesting, indeed.
Reviewer: Johamar - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 9, 2005
Subject: Well
I saw a picture of these towers first some years ago in a book on outsider art as it is called by some. I enjoyed this documentary and especially seeing this extraordinary man in this kind of town enviroment, Simon Roda, at work and him talking about his sleepless nights he had in struggling with his "own idea". This is no "typical folk art junk" as someone here below tries to make it. Comparing Simon Roda instead to the spanish architect Antoni Goudi and inserting that discussion in a book on "insider art" would be much more enlightening.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 5, 2005
Subject: Does not star anyone named Frodo
Despite Ken Smith's hilarious review of this film, I actually enjoyed, well, except for the annoying soundtrack, this film about something which I never knew existed, and which is still up. Very intersting to find out about how these were built, clay and mud, and everything else! and the determination of it's creator to get it done. I guess after that he moved away and never saw his project again. Strange.
Reviewer: Synthetrix - favoritefavoritefavorite - May 31, 2003
Subject: The story of the Watts Towers
A fascinating look at the Watts Towers and their builder Sam Rodilla.
Anyone who has seen the towers and wondered about their story will enjoy this film.
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